With the arrival of spring comes greater chances of floods and tornadoes that farmers and other agricultural business owners should plan for while avoiding any temptation to "risk it all to save the barn" during a disaster, a Purdue Extension disaster education specialist says.

Their primary concern should be for the safety of family and employees, said Steve Cain, homeland security project director for the Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network.

"In a disaster, planning for people's safety is first," Cain said. "Unless you have planned for disaster, you may take steps during one that actually put people at risk."

He said family members and employees, for instance, should have clear instructions not to drive recklessly on roads during or after a storm, such as amid rising floodwaters, or operate equipment haphazardly in a hurry.

"That's not only important from a human well-being standpoint, but it's also important from a liability standpoint," Cain said. "Operating with a mindset of 'risk it all to save the barn' could put your operation at a higher liability if someone were seriously injured or died while reacting to a natural disaster because they didn't have the expectation to keep safety first.

"Careful planning to keep people safe can avoid a second disaster."

Cain said farmers and other operators should have two strategies: a plan for how to safeguard lives and equipment from a disaster and another for how best to respond to one. Purdue Extension has publications to help in disaster planning and response, such as Plan Today for Tomorrow’s Flood; a Flood Response Plan for Agricultural Retailers, which includes advice that also applies to farm operations. Among the components of a good disaster plan and response strategy:

  • Designate a leader.
  • Make sure employees know their roles during an emergency.
  • Update employee contact information.
  • Have an exit strategy and account for everyone when evacuating a site.

The publication, which includes guidance in protecting equipment and records, is free online for download at Purdue Extension's Education Store at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?itemID=20037

It also is available for $5 in hard-copy format.

The Education Store, http://www.the-education-store.com , has other disaster awareness publications, including First Steps to Flood Recovery, which explains how to care for family members, pets and livestock; salvage keepsakes; and otherwise recover from flood damage.

Cain noted that industry organizations and commodity groups also have disaster planning and response guidance that could be specific to the type of a producer's operation.